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Lucy, Kit and Mimi are the best of friends and they think they'll be friends forever. As part of a friendship pact they place some of their favorite belongings in a wooden box and vow to open the box together on the night of their graduation. A number of years pass and graduation day finds our group totally split apart. Lucy (Britney Spears) is now a straight A-student, valedictorian and sort of a nerd. Kit (Zoe Saldana) is a stuck up rich popular girl with a college boyfriend, while Mimi (Taryn Manning) has fallen upon some bad times having become pregnant and being deemed trailer park trash.

After the graduation ceremony the kids attend a dance and Mimi approaches both Kit and Lucy reminding them about the promise. Both girls initially turn her down, but when Mimi shows up in the woods she finds that they are both there as well. They dig up the box and recount old times. As they are leaving Mimi tells them about her plans to audition for a record contest out in Los Angeles, and if they want to go that she's leaving the following Sunday at 7am. Lucy and Kit think nothing of it, but both decide to make the trip for different reasons. Lucy wants to meet her mother who lives in Arizona and Kit wants to hang out with her boyfriend, who decided not to come home from college for the summer.  After a brief introduction to Ben (Anson Mount) their ride, the girls are off on a road trip they'll never forget.  Their friendship begins to rekindle through a series of bonding moments including a karaoke jam at a bar where Lucy shows that she loves rock and roll. It's here where Lucy realizes that maybe she should become a singer and follow her own dreams instead of those of her father yearns.  

Lucy dancing in her underwear in her room
"Crossroads" marks the feature film acting debut of mega popstar Britney Spears and to the surprise of many she actually does a fairly decent job. Spears reportedly developed the concept and basic story for this film herself before handing it over to screenwriter Shonda Rhimes to flesh it out into a feature length film. The result is a film that touches upon a number of important issues to teenagers, including teen pregnancy, growing up with a single parent, the absence of a strong female role model and the importance of following your own dreams as opposed to your parents. It also touches upon the bond between friends and how over time that bond may be tested, and even strained, but that given the right circumstances it can be repaired.  If there's one problem with the film it's that the screenplay tries to do too much in a very little amount of time. Rhimes is all over the map trying to introduce and give statements on many different things. If she had narrowed the focus down to one or two issues then things would have been vastly improved. Another issue I have with the film is that it contradicts itself in terms of the values of waiting to have sex. Early on in the film Lucy decides to wait and not have relations with her long time friend and lab partner, but later sleeps with someone she's only known for a short time.  

Performance wise "Crossroads" is a mixed bag with the younger actors besting their elder co-stars by a great deal. As previously mentioned Britney Spears makes her acting debut as Lucy, the straight A grade, medical school bound girl whose mother left at an early age. This is a bit of a stretch for Spears whose mother has been one of her strongest supporters. Let's face it Spears is anything but nerdy. Spear's plays Lucy rather well though, and actually convinced me that she was playing someone different from a fictionalized version of herself. To aide in this transformation Spears looks like the girl next door instead of her more recent sexpot image. Spear's look throughout the early portion of the movie is more reminiscent of her "Baby One More Time" video than the more recent "I'm a Slave 4 U". She handles the material better than I would have expected and seems to convey emotions quite well during the more difficult scenes, while at the same time having excellent comedic timing. Sure she misses the mark in some scenes and there are a few moments that are unintentionally funny, but for someone who I thought this would be a vanity project, she does well.

Zoe Saldana plays Kit in the film and provides a compelling performance for what it essentially in the end just a secondary character. Saldana didn't impress me all that much in "Center Stage" or "Get Over It", but she has done a bit better for herself as the stuck up, and spoiled rich girl that learns that you can't always get what you want. Rounding out the trio of friends is Taryn Manning best known to teen audiences as the troubled Maddy from "Crazy/Beautiful" a much better film that also deals with difficult teen issues. Manning appears competent along with the rest of the cast, but she didn't really sell some of the emotions I thought her character would be facing as well as I would have liked.  Playing Britney Spear's love interest is a daunting task for any man even more so if you get to share Britney's first on-screen kiss. Anson Mount is the actor who has to do it, and he at least does a passable job. Mount's character of Ben wasn't really all that important to the film and he didn't really have that great of a presence. For the most part he just flies under the radar trying not to stand out much.  

While the kids give an acceptable array of performances, the same can't be said for the adult characters in the film. Dan Aykroyd who played a Blues Brother, a Ghostbuster and a Conehead, plays the very one dimensional role of Lucy's father Pete. Aykroyd in his limited screen time just appears to stand there and yell at his daughter, and really shows no emotion at all. Appearing in what could be considered a cameo Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City) plays the woman who abandoned Lucy. Cattrall has all of two lines and looks as if she is bored out of her mind. On paper the role may have looked good but on screen it's anything but. Lastly it's worth mentioning that Justin Long (TV's Ed, Jeepers Creepers) has a scene stealing comedic role early on in the film.

At the diner.
"Crossroads" is a feature film that actually does much better than I thought it would. I was expecting nothing more then a complete vanity project for the young diva and what I received was a story with a message. Like her fellow popstar Mandy Moore, Britney Spears manages to make a film that has a few strong moments and an above average message. The film's screenplay has it flaws as it tries to do too much in 93 minutes, and some of the characters have plot lines that aren't resolved. Still the film never comes across as a blatant advertisement for Britney's CDs, concert tickets and other merchandise.  What it all comes down to is the age of the audience who are viewing the film. Fans in Britney's target demographic ranging from age 5 to 15 will no doubt love the film and play it again and again. The film's overly dramatic tone will not be a factor on them, but for people over the age of 15 the tone may hurt the film's rewatchability. I thought "Crossroads" could have dealt with the important issues in a more fun and lightweight way. There's no doubting that the film is at it's best when the characters are goofing off and having a good time. When it get's a bit more dramatic it loses something. All in all "Crossroads" is a film that has it's problems, but it still a debut that Britney can be proud of. It's certainly no "Glitter".

Video
"Crossroads" is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. "Crossroads" isn't the most visual pleasing picture, although there are aspects of the cinematography that are in fact quite stunning. Most of the scenes in the film take place in one or two similar type locations, either on the open road or in the interior of a hotel room. The film was shot by Eric Alan Edwards who his credit has a fairly detailed resume even if he's not a household name. Paramount Pictures does a good job on this transfer as the film looks just as good as it did theatrically. The 1.85:1 widescreen image features a nice sharp transfer that's not only finely detailed, but near perfection in some scenes. A handful of shots don't look as crisp as the rest of the film, but things as a whole keep a fairly uniform look. In terms of how the colors look the film features a natural color palette and sticks to primary tones like red, green, blue and yellow. Colors appear to be captured accurately and are well saturated without suffering any bleed. Flesh tones appear strong and natural as there isn't a blemish on Ms Spears soft white skin. The transfer does have a few flaws as there is some minor edge enhancement present as well as the occasional speck of dust on the print. Aside from those issues I'm happy to report that no pixelation was seen.  Although "Crossroads" is not the most visually exciting picture I've seen, the transfer from Paramount is pretty damn good, only suffering from some really small problems.

Audio
Paramount brings "Crossroads" to DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. I saw "Crossroads" twice in two different theaters and both times was fairly impressed with it's basic approach to sound design, which for the most part remains intact here. Not unlike fellow popstar Mandy Moore's film "A Walk to Remember", Britney's film "Crossroads" is a fairly dialogue intensive and story driven. That comes across on this disc. Sound effect usage is kept to a minimum and aside from the occasional musical track seems to be firmly anchored in the front speakers.  Ambient sound from the rear channels is under used, but always appreciated as it enhances the viewer's perception of the surroundings. The soundtrack consisting of a number of Spear's songs, some retro Madonna, as well as 'NSync and Shania Twain. The scenes where Britney herself sings are the highlights of the audio experience with nice stereo separation and floor shaking bass. Dialogue, which is always important is well balanced, recorded and with the exception of the film's opening narration easily heard.  The "Crossroads" sound mix is never going to win any awards or put holes in your foundation, but it has it where it counts and that's the music.

Mimi, Lucy and Kit rocking out.
Extras
Paramount has gone all out on for the "Crossroads" DVD providing a special edition that Britney fans will no doubt flock to the stores to buy.  

The obligatory audio commentary comes from director Tamra Davis, producer Ann Carli and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes. While all three of the participants have lots of things to discuss the track is missing the one person that fans want to hear from the most, and that's Britney herself.  Davis, Carli and Rhimes talk about the evolution from script to screen and how the project differed from what they thought a "Britney Spears" movie would be like. They also spend a great deal of time going over stories from the set, problems with screaming Britney fans and how much fun everyone had making the movie. At times the participants tend to fall under the spell of the film and their discussion stops while they watch their favorite scenes. I thought the commentary track was a bit of a mixed bag and while I didn't expect to learn tons about the making of the film, I did expect to get a bit more out of it. Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if this love fest was closely monitored by Britney's public relations people as there isn't a bad thing said about her. In the end this is OK for a one time listen, but I can't see anyone get much replay value out of it.

Break Through Britney is this disc's equivalent to the Pop-Up Video phenomenon and when selected Britney herself pop's up from time to time to discuss her thoughts on that scene.

Attempting to pass itself off as an making of documentary is "40 Days with Britney Spears : The Making of Crossroads".  It clocks in at just over 25 minutes and consists mostly of interview footage, clips from the film, as well as some behind the scenes goofing around. Now anyone expecting anything of considerable depth from a featurette dealing with Britney Spears is living in a fantasy world, but this featurette succeeds where many other similar type features fail, just because of the fun factor.  In terms of interview footage the producers of this featurette have managed to assemble just about everyone who appears in the film to talk about what attracted them to the film, what it was like working with Britney and everything else imaginable. Britney's presence is felt throughout the featurette and there's a good chance that even if she's off screen then someone is at least talking about her. Aside from the basic interviews a lot of the program deals with fun clips of Spears and her castmates goofing off on the set, and in general just having a good time. "Crossroads" will never be an Oscar winner and the cast know that, so they just have the best time possible on the set and the result is a light and fluffy look at the film.

Having fun in Ben's car
In what has to be a first for the DVD format we have the intriguingly titled "Taryn's T-Shirts" which takes a new approach to a costuming featurette. The program features actress Taryn Manning who played Mimi in the film along with actress/clothing designer Jackie Dennis. It details how to make the sexy shirts from the film's karaoke sequence. Obviously this featurette is aimed at the film's teenage girl fan base, who no doubt enjoy dressing up like Britney as is evident by the number of private school girl outfits I've seen on display at her concerts. Manning and Dennis detail how to make two different shirts from the movie using a variety of household tools and easy to find items from a craft store. From the instructions given it seems pretty easy, but I'm still not liable to run out and attempt this but then again I'm a guy. It should be noted that this featurette contains a disclaimer stating that young kids should have parental supervision before attempting to make the shirts.

First in Line - Inside the "Crossroads" Premiere is a nearly ten minute look at life in the Hollywood fast-lane and what goes on at the premiere for a major motion picture. It's hosted by Zoe Saldana (Kit in the film). It follows her and her family's limo ride to the theater, the interviews that she had to do on the red carpet in support of the film, the massive crowd hoping to get a glimpse of Ms Spears and the overall craziness of the event. It also briefly covers the after party for the premiere and some autograph seeking fans who wait outside the theater hoping to get a coveted signature. There's no questioning that this is a fluff piece and it isn't designed to give much information, but it's sort of fun to go behind the scenes at a Hollywood premiere and Saldana's nervousness adds a comedic touch to the proceedings.

Any movie starring Britney Spear's DVD wouldn't be complete without a couple of music videos, so Paramount has included the videos for "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" as well as "Overprotected (The Darkchild Remix)". This is the second appearance for the "Not" video, which also appeared on Britney's "The Videos" collection late last year. These videos are presented in both standard form and with an optional "Sing Along with Britney" karaoke track.

Keeping on the music video theme is the "Edit Your Own Music Video" feature which allows you as a viewer to edit your own version of the "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" music video.  Three clips appear at the bottom of the screen, then you select which order they should go. When done the final product plays before your very eyes.

The section entitled "Deleted Scenes with On Camera Introductions by director Tamra Davis" offers a little more then one might expect. In addition to the deleted scenes we are also given some pretty funny outtakes.  The deleted scenes aren't really all that exciting, and for the most part just expand ever so slightly on some of the moments in the film, or take the focus away from the main point of the story. One such scene involves the girls flashing three unsuspecting patrons in a hotel room. Although this scene shows them bonding more as friend's it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the picture. The last few minutes of the featurette shows some genuinely funny outtakes most of which involve Justin Long. Instead of running commentary on the scenes each clip is prefaced by a short introduction by Tamra Davis who explains where the scene fit in context with the film and why it was removed.

Rounding out the disc is Britney's DVD welcome which runs all of about 10 seconds as well as the domestic theatrical trailer, the iternational teaser trailer (1.85:1/5.1), some MTV promo spots, not to mention a fairly large production photo gallery.

Lucy (Spears) and Ben (Mount)
Overall
"Crossroads" is a motion picture I went to see because I'm a guy, and well I find Britney Spears fairly attractive. I wasn't expecting the movie to be anything special and I really hoped that it wouldn't be painful to watch. Luckily the film was much better than I expected and while not the best movie I've seen all year, it was far from the worst. The screenplay is a bit problematic, but Britney handled herself well and I had fun. Paramount's DVD does a nice job of bringing the film to DVD, with excellent audio and video quality. There are also a surprisingly high number of bonus features for the studio. Fans of Britney and the film will no doubt be happy with this DVD edition as it contains just about everything they could possible want. The only thing missing is a Britney Spears commentary track. Obviously if you haven't seen the film or don't fit in the target demographic then I'd recommend checking the film out as a rental.


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